Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

May 21, 2014

Click it or Ticket

Buckling up is the law and, more importantly, saves lives

ASHLAND — "Click it or Ticket” is a phrase used so often in recent years most of us hardly give it a thought. Oh sure, we know it means if we don’t buckle up, we could get a ticket and a fine.  But we don’t know of too many drivers who buckle up and make their passengers fasten their seat belts out of fear of being cited and fined because they ignored the mandatory seat belt laws that exist in all 50 states.

Nor should the fear of being cited be the major reason you buckle up. A far better reason is that seat belts save lives and prevent injuries if you are wearing them when you are in a vehicle accident.

Seat belts do not always save lives, as people who are properly wearing their seat belts do die in vehicle accidents. But the statistics are overwhelming: Those who are buckled up survive more serious accidents and receive far less severe injuries than those who are unbuckled.

Law-enforcement agencies in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have launched a major “border to border” offensive aimed at increasing seat-belt usage and cracking down on those who violate seat-belt laws. During this “Click it or Ticket” campaign, officers in all three states will be on the look out for drivers and their passengers who are not buckled up. Not wearing seat belts is primary offense in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, meaning police can stop motorists for that reason alone.

The goal of the highway safety offices in the three states and of the Tri-State Law Enforcement Council is to increase the seat-belt usage rate to 90 percent heading into the period known as “the 100 deadly days of summer.” Authorities also want to make sure people buckle up when they take to the roads to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend.

Seat-belt use in Kentucky is more than 70 percent. That’s far more than the 25 percent who buckled up before Kentucky enacted its first mandatory seat-belt law in the 1980s. Kentucky was one of the last three states to enact a mandatory seat-belt law, and legislators in Frankfort did so only to prevent the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds to states without a seat-belt law.

Seat-belt use in Kentucky increased substantially immediately after the state approved its first mandatory seat-belt law and it has increased steadily since then. When the state finally gave police the power to pull drivers over for not wearing their seat belts, it climbed to more than 70 percent.

Last year, there were 10,700 seat-belt citations issued in West Virginia, more than 92,000 in Kentucky and more than 100,000 in Ohio, according to statistics. That tells us that based on the population the three states, you were more likely to get a ticket for not using your seat belt in Kentucky than in Ohio and far more likely to be cited than in West Virginia.

Statistically, those in rural areas are less likely to buckle up than those in cities, but whether you are driving on a six-lane urban highway or on an unpaved Elliott County road that is lightly traveled, buckling up makes sense, not just because it is the law but because it can prevent injuries in accidents. The best reason for making it a habit to buckle up whenever you get into a motor vehicle is for you own safety.

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